We interview the creative team behind the children’s book Kong and Me, which follows the characters Kong and Jia. This interview features writer Kiki Thorpe, who has done over 30 books including Disney’s The Never Girls series, the Meet the Kreeps series, How to Grow a Monster and more. It also features artist Nidhi Chanai, whose other work includes Binny’s Diwali, I Will Be Fierce, Jukebox and more. Chanai is also the author of the book Pashmina.
Writer Kiki Thorpe Interview
Toho Kingdom (Chris Mirjahangir and Noah Percival): How were you approached by Legendary Comics for this book?
Kiki Thorpe: The team at Legendary Comics had come up with the idea of doing a book for a young audience, and Jann Jones, the editor, got in touch to see if I would be interested in writing it. She pitched it as a book that film fans could read to their younger kids to introduce them to Kong in a way that felt age appropriate. I was thrilled to have the chance to work with such an iconic character.
Toho Kingdom: Were you familiar with the character of Kong before working on this project?
Thorpe: I had seen Kong: Skull Island (2017), so I was familiar only as a moviegoer. To write a book that would be appropriate for very young readers, we had to explore the gentler side of his character, which I think really comes out in his friendship with Jia in Godzilla vs. Kong (2021).
Toho Kingdom: What information and guidelines were you given for this project?
Thorpe: One thing that really guided the story was the decision to set it entirely on Skull Island. You couldn’t ask for a richer setting. There are so many different locations and so many fantastic monsters. We knew we wanted to include as many of them as possible while still keeping Kong and Jia at the center of the story.
In terms of information, I was able to read the script, which helped me get a sense of Kong and Jia’s friendship. I also read many of the MonsterVerse story extensions from Legendary Comics. Those, especially the ones set on Skull Island, helped orient me in that world, and I referred back to them often when I was shaping the story in this book.
Toho Kingdom: What ideas are you hoping children who read the book take away from it?
Thorpe: That good friends come in all shapes and sizes, and that you don’t have to be big to matter. Also, that it would be really fun to have a 337-foot monster for a friend!
Artist Nidhi Chanani Interview
Toho Kingdom (Chris Mirjahangir and Noah Percival): What drew you to this project?
Nidhi Chanani: I enjoy a challenge! I appreciate any work where I can grow as an artist. My editor, Jann, mentioned that it would be the first time Kong would appear in a picture book and that also excited me. Being able to bring a new version of a known character was a fun task.
Toho Kingdom: How was the art style decided upon for this book?
Chanani: It’s hard to define my own style but I love cute, light-filled whimsical worlds. I didn’t receive direction on style for the book, Legendary and specifically Jann, my editor, provided me with reference and allowed me to draw Skull Island in my style. When approaching the beautiful natural world of the island, I looked at their reference and also researched the filming locations. I collected photography from Oahu and Vietnam to draw the foliage and understand the variety of natural elements.
Toho Kingdom: What references were you given for Kong and the other creatures?
Chanani: There are many monsters within the pages of the book! Anytime I added a monster, I was given multiple reference photos so that I could create my own version of them.
Toho Kingdom: Can you describe your artistic process for us?
Chanani: I create my artwork digitally in photoshop. I begin with sketches and once they’re approved, I move to create full color art. I begin with the characters, blocking in their shapes in color. Then, I layer up detail by detail – from Kong’s textured hairy body to Jia’s tattoos. I add shadows to the characters and then build up the environment. I start with big blocks of color for the sky and ground, and again, layer up the details. Finally, I add the lighting and use color overlays to create unity between the characters and the environment.